Read Barracuda

Fourteen-year-old Daniel Kelly is special. Despite his upbringing in working-class Melbourne, he knows that his astonishing ability in the swimming pool has the potential to transform his life. Everything Danny has ever done, every sacrifice his family has ever made, has been in pursuit of this dream–but what happens when the talent that makes you special fails you? When the goal that you’ve been pursuing for as long as you can remember ends in humiliation and loss?

Twenty years later, Dan is in Scotland, terrified to tell his partner about his past, afraid that revealing what he has done will make him unlovable. Haunted by shame, Dan relives the intervening years he spent in prison, where the optimism of his childhood was completely foreign.

Although I had seen and enjoyed the television adaptations of both The Slap and Barracuda, I had never actually read any of Christos Tsiolkas’ novels. I was partly inspired after listening to Tsiolkas in conversation with Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens, also Barracuda was the only novel available on

The novel revolves around Daniel Kelly, the son of working class Scots-Irish and Greek parents who gains a scholarship to a prodigious private school because of his swimming abilities, but fails to make it to the Olympics.

Where The Slap had an ensemble cast and Tolstoy-esque ambitions — it sought to render the whole milieu of the multiethnic, suburban Melbourne that is Tsiolkas’s heartland — Barracuda trains its sights firmly on Danny Kelly. Even so, all the characters are vividly drawn.

Mark Lawson on language:

Tsiolkas’s sometimes startling dialogue is part of his mission – along with explicit descriptions of urination, defecation and ejaculation – to set down the texture of how people really live and speak. His characters have a visceral credibility rare in fiction.

There is something strangely engaging about this novel in the way that the problem is referenced early on, the rest of the time we bounce between a before and after, piecing things together. For me, every choice that Dan Kelly makes comes with its own set of consequences. Although we get some sort of resolution in the end, when Kelly gives a gift back to his family, this does not necessarily remedy all of life’s ills, nor does it break free of the restraints placed on us by society.

Read novel by Tim Winton by Contributors to Wikimedia projects

Georgie, the heroine of the book, becomes fascinated while watching a stranger attempting to poach fish in an area where nobody can maintain secrets for very long; disillusioned with her relationship with the local fisherman legend Jim Buckridge, she contrives a meeting with the stranger and soon passion runs out of control between two bruised and emotionally fragile people.

The secret quickly becomes impossible to hide, and Jim wants revenge, whilst the poacher hikes north via Wittenoom (out of respect for his father who died of mesothelioma in the town) and Broome to an island off the remote coast of Kimberley beyond Kununurra to escape a confrontation. His subsequent struggles to survive in the hostile environment, knowing that he must try to literally cover his tracks, give this book its gripping denouement.

I decided to read Dirt Music after reading Cloudstreet and listening to Tim Winton speak on Radio National. For me the novel had three key elements, fractured characters, the journeys we go on and the place of space. I think Magdalena Ball captures the novel well in her review.

Dirt Music is a big sprawling novel about the ancient Australian land, about loss, life, death, and redemption, about change and stagnation, but above all about love, and its power to change people. Peopled with small, recognisable, and believable characters, and deep, intense themes, the prose is poetic, and powerful, and at times, the structure experimental, but it is possible to read this book solely for the plot. Fast, engaging, and stunningly beautiful, Dirt Music is the kind of book that can, and should be read, and re-read.

In regards to the characters, I really enjoyed the contrasts, both technically and personally:

Tim: Different tenses and perspectives offer you different things. It helps to distinguish the world that they are in. I used the different tenses to make them seem to be inhabiting worlds of their own – a voice, or tool that they could use to express their personalities, and experiences. Past tense offers authority, distance, and present tense offers emotional immediacy. This technique isn’t new. People have been doing that since long before the birth of modernity. It was just a means for allowing the reader to experience these characters from their own perspective.

It was a strange novel. I kept looking for something drastic to happen, only to realise that things were happening all of the time, crashing over us like waves. Sometimes we just have to notice.

My favourite part of the novel was the description of space. For me, I was taken back to my time in Lancelin a few years ago. I remember travelling north to see the Pinnicles, but we never ventured beyond that. Sadly, I never got the promised fresh lobster. As a place, I always had a feeling that there was always something more happening. Maybe there always is.

Read Cloudstreet by Tim Winton by Contributors to Wikimedia projects

Cloudstreet is a novel by Australian writer Tim Winton published in 1991. It chronicles the lives of two working-class families, the Pickles and the Lambs, who come to live together in a large house called Cloudstreet in Perth over a period of twenty years, 1943 to 1963. The novel received several awards, including a Miles Franklin Award in 1992, and has been adapted into various forms, including a stage play and a television miniseries.

I listened to this book via the ABC Listen App, which provides a selection of different Australian novels to listen to. The tail of two families, the Lambs and the Pickles, whose lives are brought together in a large house on Cloudstreet. I was engrossed by all the different characters and what each brought to the story. I also liked the way the novel placed itself in time by referencing various events through time. I was intrigued to find out that the novel was based on Winton’s own family history, with it serving as something of an honouring of the past.
Read Speaking in Tongues (Tom Tilley) by SupaduDevSupaduDev

From the outside, Tom Tilley’s childhood seemed ordinary. The first son of a pastor, he grew up in a beautiful country town where life revolved around football, his loving family and their Pentecostal faith. But behind church doors, a strictly enforced set of rules included a looming ultimatum: if Tom didn’t speak in tongues, he’d go to hell and be outcast from his close-knit, devout community.

The older Tom became, the more he questioned the teachings of the church, especially around speaking in tongues. And the more he heard about his parents’ adventurous lives before they found God, the more he wanted the freedom to make those ‘mistakes’ that the church forbade. Eventually, after years of suppressing his doubts in silence, Tom spoke up. Having the courage to do so came at a huge personal cost, leading to a decision that would take his family to breaking point. What happened next is surprising, and Tom’s journey to independence will inspire readers to ask what’s true in their own lives and who they really are.

Told with empathy and searing honesty, Speaking in Tongues is a powerful coming-of-age story about questioning the life created for you and building your true self, one recycled brick at a time.

This is one of those times when you know a name, only to realise that there is a whole backstory that you are unaware of. In Speaking with Tongues, Tilley recounts his experience in the Revival Centres International and his subsequent life afterwards following his passions by going into media.

What I found interesting is the discussion of connection and community throughout. Although his church connections seem to shrivel up instantly when he was asked to leave the church, his connection to Mudgee is something that seems to stay constant throughout. This is as much to do with place as it is to the people he grew up with.

Overall, what I enjoyed the most about Tilley’s memoir is how honest it is throughout.

Bridget Delaney provides a useful summary of the book in her piece for The Guardian, while Tilley also spoke about the book with Sarah Kanowski on ABC’s Conversations podcast.

Read Emma

Emma is a novel about youthful hubris and romantic misunderstandings, written by Jane Austen. It is set in the fictional country village of Highbury and the surrounding estates of Hartfield, Randalls and Donwell Abbey, and involves the relationships among people from a small number of families.[2] The novel was first published in December 1815, with its title page listing a publication date of 1816. As in her other novels, Austen explores the concerns and difficulties of genteel women living in Georgian–Regency England. Emma is a comedy of manners, and depicts issues of marriage, sex, age, and social status.

Before she began the novel, Austen wrote, “I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.”[3] In the first sentence, she introduces the title character as “Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and a happy disposition… had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.”[4] Emma is spoiled, headstrong, and self-satisfied; she greatly overestimates her own matchmaking abilities; she is blind to the dangers of meddling in other people’s lives; and her imagination and perceptions often lead her astray.

Emma, written after Austen’s move to Chawton, was her last novel to be published during her lifetime,[5] while Persuasion, the last complete novel Austen wrote, was published posthumously.

I remember reading this is John Wiltshire’s Austen class in university. I remember being humbled at the time in that I thought I knew Jane Austen, without actually reading Jane Austen.

I enjoyed John Mullan’s discussion of why it belongs alongside the works of Flaubert, Joyce and Woolf as one of the great experimental novels. As he explains, we are invited as readers to share Emma’s delusions:

It was revolutionary in its form and technique. Its heroine is a self-deluded young woman with the leisure and power to meddle in the lives of her neighbours. The narrative was radically experimental because it was designed to share her delusions.

Even though we are brought into Emma’s world, the novel is still written in the third-person. This means of placing the reader inside the thoughts of a character has been described as ‘free indirect style’:

It was only in the early 20th century that critics began agreeing on a name for it: free indirect style (a translation from the original French: style indirect libre). It describes the way in which a writer imbues a third-person narration with the habits of thought or expression of a fictional character … Austen miraculously combined the internal and the external.

David Lodge has observed how odd James’s condescension is, given that he came to specialise in the very technique Austen had pioneered: “Telling the story through the consciousness of characters whose understanding of events is partial, mistaken, deceived, or self-deceived.”

Personally, I am fascinated with the idea of taking the idea of ‘dreams’ and ideals in the novel as a thread and reading this alongside psychoanalytic texts, such as Freud’s Ego and the Id. It makes me think about Emma and the whole text being an example of the battle between the ego and the unconsicous. There is a hidden side of the text that is below the surface and can only capture in passing, however the many clues seem strangely obvious after the fact.

I was drawn back to Emma through the Minefield podcast and there investigation of the novel. On Scott Stephens’ recommendation, I actually listened to Juliet Stevenson’s narration of the novel via


Invite him to dinner, Emma, and help him to the best of the fish and the chicken, but leave him to chuse his own wife. Depend upon it, a man of six or seven-and-twenty can take care of himself.”
Page 46

Harriet Smith was the natural daughter of somebody. Somebody had placed her, several years back, at Mrs. Goddard’s school, and somebody had lately raised her from the condition of scholar to that of parlour-boarder. This was all that was generally known of her history.
Page 56

“Never mind, Harriet, I shall not be a poor old maid; and it is poverty only which makes celibacy contemptible to a generous public! A single woman, with a very narrow income, must be a ridiculous, disagreeable, old maid! the proper sport of boys and girls; but a single woman, of good fortune, is always respectable, and may be as sensible and pleasant as anybody else.
Page 118

“I do not know whether it ought to be so, but certainly silly things do cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way. Wickedness is always wickedness, but folly is not always folly.—It depends upon the character of those who handle it. Mr. Knightley, he is not a trifling, silly young man. If he were, he would have done this differently. He would either have gloried in the achievement, or been ashamed of it. There would have been either the ostentation of a coxcomb, or the evasions of a mind too weak to defend its own vanities.—No, I am perfectly sure that he is not trifling or silly.”
Page 245

Mr. Knightley connected it with the dream; but how it could all be, was beyond his comprehension. How the delicacy, the discretion of his favourite could have been so lain asleep! He feared there must be some decided involvement. Disingenuousness and double-dealing seemed to meet him at every turn. These letters were but the vehicle for gallantry and trick. It was a child’s play, chosen to conceal a deeper game on Frank Churchill’s part.
Page 381

It was just what it ought to be, and it looked what it was—and Emma felt an increasing respect for it, as the residence of a family of such true gentility, untainted in blood and understanding.
Page 391

“It is to be a secret, I conclude,” said he. “These matters are always a secret, till it is found out that every body knows them. Only let me be told when I may speak out.—I wonder whether Jane has any suspicion.”
Page 502

Read How to Write the Soundtrack to Your Life by Loz – Affirm Press

Murphy Parker is going to be a songwriter – if she can ever find the courage to let anyone hear her music. When Murphy dares to play one of her songs in a music class, she’s shocked by how much her classmates love it. And her. That is, until the next day, when they hear a suspiciously similar tune and accuse Murphy of stealing.

Someone is playing Murphy’s music and claiming it as their own. But who? And why? Desperate to clear her name and reclaim her songs, Murphy makes an unlikely alliance. But it turns out that friendship might be even more complicated than tracking down a song thief…

I really like the rich characters that Fiona captures through her stories. I think Laura captures this well in her review:

As well as its outstanding depiction of parental mental illness, How to Write the Soundtrack to Your Life had impressive disability representation. Murphy’s classmate and friend, Zara, was bold and fierce and unafraid to stand up for what she believed in. She also happened to be a wheelchair user. Not only did Fiona Hardy offer disabled readers a character they could relate to, she also highlighted some of the advantages of disability inclusion. Being friends with Zara made Murphy and the other characters more aware of the inaccessibility of the world around them. As Murphy’s friend Avery put it, “you notice every single place you go to and how Zara-unfriendly they are.”

Read Voss

Voss (1957) is the fifth published novel by Patrick White. It is based upon the life of the 19th-century Prussian explorer and naturalist Ludwig Leichhardt, who disappeared while on an expedition into the Australian outback.

Continuing my listening of the audiobooks provided through the ABC Listen app, I stumbled upon Patrick White’s Voss. I remember reading Voss at university, however I had seemingly forgotten many of the details. I was also intrigued how it might fair having also dived back into texts, such as Mrs Dalloway and The Trial.

What I had forgotten about White’s writing was the richness of the prose. I often listen to audiobooks while doing odd jobs around the house, but there was something about Voss (or White) that simply did not allow this. Instead, it became my train time, where I would turn it on and drift through the other worldliness of the text, often disappointed that I had arrived in the city or home already. Maybe it is White’s use of metaphors that really made me stop? As Lisa Hill suggests:

It’s not prose that flows, but rather that draws attention to itself with striking metaphor.

Or as Nicholas Shakespeare suggests, it was the way that White ‘gets below the surface’.

What White called ‘my peculiar style’ – ‘the fragmentation by which I convey reality’ – allowed him to get below the surface and weave about freely, in order ‘to create completely fresh forms out of the rocks and sticks of words’ – and to mould these words to achieve that ‘state of simplicity and humility’ which was, White believed, ‘the only desirable one for artist or for man.’

As with Laxness, to read Patrick White is to discover an extra taste bud. As with Faulkner, he plunges us into a dense, peaty world comparable to no other. But White has the ability, for the reader who stays with him, to penetrate one step further into their interior.

Or maybe his refusal for the mundane.

If White is a difficult writer at all I think the difficulty lies with his refusal of the banal, the mundane and profane.

Loosely based on the Prussian-born explorer Ludwig Leichhardt, the novel is part historical fiction, part internal journey, part romance, part exploration of space.

In Peter Boxall’s 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die it is described as “both a love story and an adventure story, yet it is neither […] but the most striking feature of this novel is its discordance, its unnavigable strangeness”.

For me it is a novel that lingers long afterwards. As Kim Forrester has suggested, ‘his prose glitters with jewels’.

his prose glitters with jewels waiting to be unearthed and the descriptions of the landscape and the expedition’s deeds are gloriously astute and evocative.



It is the thought of death that frightens me. Not its bones. -Page 90

Mrs. Bonner, having control, was almost happy. Only, thought and music eluded her. -Page 92

Walking in this darkness is full of dangers. “”It is not really dark. When you are accustomed to it.”” -Page 95

Atheists are atheists usually for mean reasons, Voss was saying. “”The meanest of these is that they themselves are so lacking in magnificence they cannot conceive the idea of a Divine Power.”” -Page 97

For some reason of intellectual vanity, you decided to do away with God, Voss was saying; she knew he would be smiling. “”But the consequences are yours alone. I assure you.”” -Page 98

Then he was touching her, his hand was upon her shoulder-blades, and they realized they had returned into their bodies. -Page 99

No one would be crucified on any such amiable trees as those pressed along the northern shore. -Page 102

He realized that he did not wish to recall this scene, or that, until now, he had chosen to take refuge, as the sailor had, in a second possibility. Voss, he began to know, is the ugly rock upon which truth must batter itself to survive. If I am to justify myself, he said, I must condemn the morality and love the man. -Page 107

The past is illusion, or miasma. -Page 109

As he withdrew through the already considerable crowd, he received the impression of a drowning that he was unable to avert, in a dream through which he was sucked inevitably back. -Page 119

What kind of man is he? wondered the public, who would never know. If he was already more of a statue than a man, they really did not care, for he would satisfy their longing to perch something on a column, in a square or gardens, as a memorial to their own achievement. They did, moreover, prefer to cast him in bronze than to investigate his soul, because all dark things made them uneasy, and even on a morning of historic adventure, in bright, primary colours, the shadow was sewn to the ends of his trousers, where the heels of his boots had frayed them. -Page 120

Tom, she was saying, men fall in love, over and over again, but it is always with themselves. -Page 131

Places yet unvisited can become an obsession, promising final peace, all goodness. So the fallible man in Voss was yearning after Rhine Towers, investing it with those graces which one hopes to find at the heart of every mirage, entering its mythical buildings, kindling a great fire in the expectant hearth. Its name glittered for him, as he rode repeating it to himself. -Page 138

I am glad that my knowledge of astronomy is very poor. “”Why so?”” asked Voss. “”To understand the stars would spoil their appearance.”” -Page 150

The horse had faith that paths do lead somewhere, and did follow, but the country itself was legendary. Birds plunged songless through the leaves in heavy flight. Dark birds, mostly. It was strange that such soft things could explode the silence, but they did, most vehemently, by their mere passage through it. -Page 158

In the foreground some dead trees, restored to life by the absence of hate, were glowing with flesh of rosy light. All life was dependent on the thin lips of light, compressed, yet breathing at the rim of the world. -Page 196

Harry himself had become leaner, for the distance had thinned him out. Yet, paradoxically, his once empty face was filled with those distances. They possessed, but they eluded him; he was still, and perhaps would remain always, lost. -Page 198

Written words take some time to thaw, but the words of lilies were now flowing in full summer water, -Page 206

Voss thought how he would talk eventually with Laura Trevelyan, how they had never spoken together using the truly humble words that convey the innermost reality: bread, for instance, or water. Obsessed by the struggle between their two souls, they had threatened each other with the flashing weapons of abstract reasoning, while overlooking the common need for sustenance -Page 208

Human relationships are vast as deserts: they demand all daring, she seemed to suggest. -Page 211

Words were not the servants of life, but life, rather, was the slave of words. So the black print of other people’s books became a swarm of victorious ants that carried off a man’s self-respect. So he wandered through the bush on that morning, and was only soothed at last by leaves and silence. -Page 223

So my wife speaks, he added, from a distance. “”Then you have a wife?”” asked Palfreyman, looking up. “”No, no!”” protested Voss, with apparent amusement. “”If she would exist!”” He laughed. “”Such are the pitfalls of grammar. I acquire a wife by simple misuse of a tense.”” -Page 286

I forgot to say she has had all the mirrors removed from the house, for her reflection is a double that she has grown to hate. Of course, there are all those other objects in glass, which I have mentioned, but they, she says, distort in any case.”” -Page 290

Men and beasts were grown very thin as they butted with their heads against the solid rain. Some of the men were hating one another worse than ever. Animals hate less, of course, because they have never expected more. But men grow green with hatred. -Page 294

her brother remembered, and that he had those seeds in his pack, in an old japanned spectacle-case. -Page 317

Once during the night she came to him, and held his head in her hands, but he would not look at her, although he was calling: Laura, Laura. So a mother holds against her breast the head of a child that has been dreaming, but fails to take the dream to herself; this must remain with the child, and will recur forever. So Laura remained powerless in the man’s dream -Page 328

Laura dear, men are what women make them. -Page 335

Miss Wilson did not intend to waste much time on Dr. Badgery, who was neither young, nor handsome, of moderate means, she suspected, and not quite a gentleman. If she did not also recognize sympathy, it was because she was not yet desperate enough. -Page 351

This devilish country, flat at first, soon broke up into winding gullies, not particularly deep, but steep enough to wrench the backs of the animals that had to cross them, and to wear the bodies and nerves of the men by the frantic motion that it involved. There was no avoiding chaos by detour. The gullies had to be crossed, and on the far side there was always another tortuous gully. It was as if the whole landscape had been thrown up into great earthworks defending the distance. -Page 369

All remembered the face of Christ that they had seen at some point in their lives, either in churches or in visions, before retreating from what they had not understood, the paradox of man in Christ, and Christ in man. All were obsessed by what could be the last scene for some of them. They could not advance farther. -Page 375

Then they were drifting together. They were sharing the same hell, in their common flesh, which he had attempted so often to repudiate. She was fitting him with a sheath of tender white. “”Do you see now?”” she asked. “”Man is God decapitated. That is why you are bleeding.”” -Page 399

The boy stood for a moment beneath the morning star. The whole air was trembling on his skin. As for the head-thing, it knocked against a few stones, and lay like any melon. How much was left of the man it no longer represented? His dreams fled into the air, his blood ran out upon the dry earth, which drank it up immediately. Whether dreams breed, or the earth responds to a pint of blood, the instant of death does not tell. -Page 431

Mr. Voss is already history. “”But history is not acceptable until it is sifted for the truth. Sometimes this can never be reached.”” She was hanging her head. She was horribly twisted. “”No, never,”” she agreed. “”It is all lies. While there are men, there will always be lies. I do not know the truth about myself, unless I sometimes dream it.”” -Page 450

Knowledge was never a matter of geography. Quite the reverse, it overflows all maps that exist. Perhaps true knowledge only comes of death by torture in the country of the mind.”” -Page 487

Voss did not die, Miss Trevelyan replied. “”He is there still, it is said, in the country, and always will be. His legend will be written down, eventually, by those who have been troubled by it.”” -Page 489

Read The Trial

The Trial (German: Der Process,[1] later Der Proceß, Der Prozeß and Der Prozess) is a novel written by Franz Kafka in 1914 and 1915 and published posthumously on 26 April 1925. One of his best known works, it tells the story of Josef K., a man arrested and prosecuted by a remote, inaccessible authority, with the nature of his crime revealed neither to him nor to the reader. Heavily influenced by Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov, Kafka even went so far as to call Dostoevsky a blood relative.[2] Like Kafka’s two other novels, The Trial was never completed, although it does include a chapter which appears to bring the story to an intentionally abrupt ending.

After Kafka’s death in 1924 his friend and literary executor Max Brod edited the text for publication by Verlag Die Schmiede. The original manuscript is held at the Museum of Modern Literature, Marbach am Neckar, Germany. The first English-language translation, by Willa and Edwin Muir, was published in 1937.[3] In 1999, the book was listed in Le Monde’s 100 Books of the Century and as No. 2 of the Best German Novels of the Twentieth Century.

I remember reading The Trial when I was younger. It remember it for its sense of dystopia and paranoia, but also the way in which it lingers.

‘Everyone wants
access to the law,’ says the man, ‘how come, over all these years,
no-one but me has asked to be let in?’ The doorkeeper can see the man’s
come to his end, his hearing has faded, and so, so that he can be heard,
he shouts to him: ‘Nobody else could have got in this way, as this
entrance was meant only for you. Now I’ll go and close it.'”

I like how Benjamin Winterhalter captures it as ‘unnervingly real’:

I’m here to suggest, following Werckmeister, that this feeling results from the fact that Kafka’s stories, despite their bizarre premises, are unnervingly real. Although there is undoubtedly an element of the absurd in the worlds Kafka creates, his style—unpretentious and specific, yet free from slang—renders those worlds with such painful accuracy that they seem totally familiar while we’re in them, like déjà vu or a memory of a bad dream

I guess it is an example of the Kafkaesque.

There are, of course, as many definitions of the Kafkaesque as there are readers of Kafka. There are also those readers who admit they cannot define it but know it when they see it — or know it when they see it in someone else’s definition. As one of those readers, I find that one of Kafka’s many biographers, Frederick R. Karl, seems to get it right. We enter the Kafkaesque, he writes, when “we view life as somehow overpowering or trapping us, as in some way undermining our will to live as we wish.”

Read Stranded: The Secret History Of Australian Independent Music (Expanded) by Clinton Walker

One of the very gratifying things for me about the book coming out again now 25 years after its original publication is that it perhaps finally puts paid to a lot of petty carping that has long dogged it. The two main gripes always were that a) the author himself is present as ‘I’ in the narrative, and b) the author’s choices, in terms of the emphases the book places. Well, umm, a) like you’ve never heard of the new journalism, and, umm, like, the author wasn’t a player in this story? This criticism, as Des Cowley put it in Rhythms, was “outdated even [in 1996], given the so-called ‘new journalists’ like Hunter S. Thompson, Joan Didion, Norman Mailer and Robert Christgau had been doing it for years. Having long been a part of the independent music scene as a journalist, Walker was well-placed to write about this music from the inside…[his] proximity to his subjects is a fundamental strength of his book.” As for my choices and emphases, I think for most people who didn’t like them it was because they were my choices and not theirs. And besides, I will still argue, the prescience of those emphases have been borne out…

Clinton Walker provides an insight into the Australian music between 1976 and 1992 beyond the pub rock scene and Countdown. Walker also created a series of playlists to go with it on YouTube and Spotify.

I have written an extended review of the book here.


In fact, it was this extension of one of the few rules the Velvet Underground had—as Lou Reed recounted many times: ‘No blues licks’—it was this abandonment of the last shreds of the blues that so distinguished punk rock, that and the fact that its song lyrics avoided opulence and riddles of the Dylan type in favour of the spare gutter poetry of the aforementioned Reed or Iggy. So there, by default, is a definition of punk as a genre.

This is in the nature of history, or rather historiography: it is an ongoing enquiry, and at every step of the way, it goes or should go beyond the previous step, even if sometimes it has to take a step back or sideways for every two forward. This is what has happened in the further investigation of this field via the flood of books, films and other documents I mentioned earlier.

Stranded is, for better or worse, simply my version of a history.

It’s hard to convey now just how hard it was to hear a lot of this type of music at that time. Bob Farrell rang everybody up to announce the news, and I went round to his place to hear it, as did Ed Kuepper. I think it was one of the Tate brothers who first turned up a copy of Funhouse. The Velvets’ Verve albums and Loaded were actually still readily available on import in the early ’70s; I’ve still got my peelable-banana copy of the first album and black-on-black embossed copy of White Light/White Heat. But everything else was all but impossible to get your hands on. It was only when I hitchhiked to Melbourne in 1975—saw Lou Reed there on his second Australian tour (now with natural dark, curly short hair)—that my mate Russell and I found a little cache of buried treasure at Batman’s record store, multiple copies and so we both got the first copies we’d ever even seen of the Velvets’ third album (a UK copy on MGM) and the MC5’s Back in the USA (still-shrinkwrapped American Atlantic cutouts). I also picked up a copy of Love Revisited. I’d never heard of Love but quickly fell in love with them. Russell picked up a couple of the Pretty Things’ mid-’60s albums on Philips. I was dead jealous. When I cottoned on to buying records by international mail-order, the first delivery I got from San Francisco included copies of the first Stooges album, Kick Out the Jams, and one of the early Flamin’ Groovies’ albums, must have been Teenage Head. They weren’t even expensive, because no-one wanted them at the time. Subsequently got the other Groovies’ albums, and other records, like Troutmask Replica, I remember having an impact on me. Others I can’t remember because they had less impact. But that’s how much you had to scrabble around back then to just hear this music that went against the grain, before punk incited an explosion of reissues.

Pioneers get arrows in their back—never was that cliché more apposite.

The rise of alternative radio in the ’80s went hand in hand with the emergence of independent music. FM radio was first called for in Australia in the late ’60s. In 1971, the ABC introduced Chris Winter’s ‘Intelligent non-commercial pop’ show Room to Move, a response to scattered commercial stations’ forays into ‘album music’. This sowed the seeds of 2JJ. At the same time, Rod Muir programmed 2SM in the tighter format of US radio. This sowed the seeds of commercial FM radio. The commercial AM stations had hoped to step straight over to the FM band. But Australian classical music lovers, aware that in America FM radio was as much the province of public stations as commercial, formed Music Broadcasting Societies in both Melbourne and Sydney to lobby for space. 2MBS and 3MBS were granted the first FM licences in 1974, and went to air just a few weeks after 2JJ was launched in Sydney in January 1975.

Robert Forster: The climate changed to suit me. I was interested in songs, I was interested in impact, I was interested in energy, just a concept, which wasn’t based on how much gear you had or how big your lightshow was. It was ideas based.

Michael Gudinski has admitted that two of the gaffs he regrets most in his long career lording it over the Australian music industry were that he didn’t sign either Cold Chisel or Men At Work. But surely it was a greater gaff—and a more costly one in the long term—to have signed Nick Cave but then to have let him go! Gudinski is one of the sacred cows of Australian music and there is no doubt he did an enormous amount to make the industry what it became, but like his good mate Molly Meldrum, he was also a prohibiting force—he stymied a lot of music, too.

Putting on and taking off blinkers is a perpetual process.

They say that if you remember the ’60s you can’t have been there. So much about the ’80s I can’t remember either. My journalism brings a lot back; I can’t help wondering if the rest isn’t best forgotten.

Drugs, I can say, fucked up that band, they’ve fucked up every band I’ve ever been in actually. Every single one. Still fucking them up. Anyway, so the Bush Oysters dissolved, and that’s when I got Thug together.

In contrast to Nick Cave’s growing up in public, Dave Graney is a self-made myth. Talk about media manipulation; Dave cunningly co-opted the media into playing the game the way he wanted by feeding it headlines and appellations it finds irresistible: ‘The Golden Wolverine’. ‘The Son of the Morning Star’. ‘As Dave Graney as I wanna be’. . . Dave’s monologues became infamous. On TV talk show appearances, his musings far too far out for the masses, he was often cut short.

It took time before my analysis of grunge came together, before I could see what had been under my nose all along—that its roots were Australian as much as anything! That’s perhaps why it never did much for me, because I’d sort of heard it all already. Grunge, the defining Sub Pop/Seattle Sound of Mudhoney, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Nirvana, was basically the sound of Australia’s ’80s underground—the Scientists, the Cosmic Psychos, even the Birthday Party, and bands like Feedtime, Grong Grong, Lubricated Goat and Bloodloss—mixed up with classic early metal, classic early punk and, I’d now add, AC/DC and Neil Young’s Crazy Horse.

In music, as in so much else in life, we are perhaps forever trying to recapture that feeling, that exhilaration of the first time. Which is, of course, a futile pursuit. But for me, a new band like the Dirty Three that sounds like no other came close.

Stranded doesn’t offer much by way of critique or analysis of the music itself: because anyone can do that, it’s just opinion. I see that quite clearly now, but even then I must have intuited that I could offer something much more valuable, because I was in a (privileged) position to do so—I could tell the backstories behind the creation of that legacy. Because I suppose I assumed that the legacy would eventually get its due. When I wrote the book in the mid-’90s, when the jury was to an extent still out on this legacy (one reason for the book’s partly hostile reception back then), I still believed strongly in the worth of this sidelined music that had started twenty years earlier in the late ’70s. I was convinced that the world would sooner or later catch up . . .

Read Flesh Wounds

Flesh Wounds My Books Flesh Wounds Publisher: HarperCollins Fancy a game of Who’s Got the Weirdest Parents? Sit back as Richard Glover describes his mother’s Tolkein-inspired nudist colony, her invented past as a British aristocrat and her insistence that Richard was Australia’s first child bo…

Flesh Wounds is Richard Glover’s memoir of the weirdest family. This covers his immaculate conception, his alcoholic father, his mother’s false past and his Tolkien loving step-father. Although weird, I think that the success of these stories are in the humorous manner in which they are conveyed. I like how Mandy Sayer captures this.

In the hands of a lesser writer these scenes could have descended into caricature or, even worse, self-pity, but Glover maintains a tone so tragicomic that the effect is both poignant and wildly entertaining.

This tone reminded me in part of Tony Martin’s Lolly Scramble.

This was also another book I stumbled upon via the ABC Listen app.

Read The Shortest History of Europe
I attended the course that this book is based on while at Latrobe, although I must admit I am not exactly sure how much I took in. I really like the way in which Hirst tells the same tale from multiple perspectives. He summarises the European miracle as follows:

German warriors support Roman Christian Church which preserves Greek and Roman learning.

I read this book a few years ago, but never remember it being so dry. I also enjoyed Julian Elfer’s reading of the book.

Read Alice Pung’s Books

This story does not begin on a boat. Nor does it contain any wild swans or falling leaves.

In a wonderland called Footscray, a girl named Alice and her Chinese-Cambodian family pursue the Australian Dream – Asian style. Armed with an ocker accent, Alice dives head- first into schooling, romance and the getting of wisdom. Her mother becomes an Aussie battler – an outworker, that is. Her father embraces the miracle of franchising and opens an electrical-appliance store. And every day her grandmother blesses Father Government for giving old people money.

Unpolished Gem is a book rich in comedy, a loving and irreverent portrait of a family, its everyday struggles and bittersweet triumphs. With it, Australian writing gains an unforgettable new voice.

I came upon Alice Pung’s book Unpolished Gem via the ABC Listen app. I was interested in Pung’s work after hearing her episode of the Earshot podcast, Greetings from Footscray.

Although there are books, such as First They Killed My Father, which address life in Cambodia under Pol Pot, Pung’s book shares of life after Cambodia. It provides great insight into the clash of cultures and the challenges faced by refugees. What I enjoyed most was honest self-deprecating humour which carried throughout.

Read Johnno

Johnno is written in the first person past tense and the narrator is only ever known by the nickname “Dante”. Johnno is heavily autobiographical.[2][3] The novel is centred upon the friendship between Dante and a schoolmate known as “Johnno” in their adolescence and early adulthood in the 1940s and 1950s in Brisbane.

Johnno is David Malouf’s first novel. It tells the story of Johnno through the relationship with the narrator of the novel, Dante.

The relationship between Johnno and Dante is never straightforward, it changes like the city around them. The surviving landmarks from their wartime childhood and the memory of others having made way for newer structures. Both characters search for acceptance, intially with Dante awkwardly seeking Johnno’s childhood friendship. However, as they grow into men the relationship is inverted with Johnno reaching out to an isolated and emotionally distant Dante. As they enter university their paths cross infrequently, Johnno’s wildness having evolved into bouts of public intoxication and a voracious appetite for classical literature, albeit while studying geology. Dante meanwhile withdraws into his study of Latin prose and observes the peccadilloes of his friend and the evolving city around him.

It is Malouf’s reimagining of the life of his childhood friend Johnny Millner. The mystery and unknown elements that are always present between the two reminds me of other literary relationships, such as Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby and Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty in On the Road. As much as we may want to know the truth, it is always something outside of our grasp.

In addition to the relationships, the book is also a means of capturing a particular place in time. As David Malouf has said:

The parts of the book I like best are not about either of the central characters, but all the stuff about Brisbane. It really is a history of Brisbane [in the 1940s and 1950s] which had never been written, and it’s an attempt to produce for readers all the detail of what it was like to live in that atmosphere, with that weather, and with that particular social structure. There is a huge amount of detail in the book and I treat that detail as if it were in a poem, so that there is something sensuously felt and emblematic of something larger. I think that’s probably the most successful aspect of the book.

Malouf also captured this in his autobiography, 12 Edmondstone Street.

As a side note, I listened to this via ABC Listen app where they have made a number of audiobooks available.


the fact remains, he had me hooked. As he had, of course, from the beginning. I had been writing my book about Johnno from the moment we met. Page 18

We were appalled and delighted by him. He gave our class, which was otherwise noted only for its high standards of scholarship, a dash of criminal distinction. Page 21

History was The Past. I had just missed out on it. There was nothing in our own little lives that was worth recording, nothing to distinguish one day of splashing about in the heavy, warm water inside the reef from the next. Page 25

Was I a war child, I sometimes asked. Was there anyone in those days who was not? “Before the war” was a hazy, rose-coloured period I could only vaguely recall. I associated it with the smell of oil-cloth picture books and the little spring chickens we used to eat, a whole chicken on each plate so that everyone had a wishbone. It was simply the earliest things I could remember. The clop of the milkman’s horse in Edmondstone Street just before dawn, and our blue-ringed jugs on the doorstep, their crochet covers weighted round the border with Reckitts-blue beads. Or waiting out front for the iceman to come with his hook, and the huge block dripping all over Cassie’s floor. Was it the war, I wondered afterwards, or some change in me, that made everything in the years before I went to school seem different from the khaki and camouflage years that came after, when even the flowers we made out of plasticine were a uniform grey, the result of a dozen colours that could not be replaced being patted and squeezed into a single colour that was like the dirt-rolls in your palm. Was it only the war that made things change? And what would happen when the war was over? I knew the lights would come on again, all over the world. Even in Queen Street. But what else? Page 26

It had been ruined. Like our girls. Who had been ruined by the high wages they were paid in munitions factories and by the attentions of foreign servicemen, but most of all by their passion for nylon. Things had gone to pieces. Children had been allowed to run wild under the special conditions of Australia at war, and now there was no holding them. For all this and a good deal more Johnno was the perfect model, and other parents than mine must have shaken their heads over him and thanked their stars that they weren’t responsible for the windows he broke or the words he shouted Page 34

For all this and a good deal more Johnno was the perfect model, and other parents than mine must have shaken their heads over him and thanked their stars that they weren’t responsible for the windows he broke or the words he shouted Page 34

The continent itself is clear enough, burned into my mind on long hot afternoons in Third Grade, when I learned to sketch in its irregular coastline: the half-circle of the Great Australian Bight, the little booted foot of Eyre’s Peninsula, Spencer’s Gulf down to Port Phillip, up the easy east coast, with its slight belly at Brisbane, towards Sandy Cape and Cape York; round the Gulf of Carpentaria and Arnhem Land to the difficulties of King Sound and the scoop towards North West Cape where I always go wrong, leaving the spurred heel of Cape Leeuwin so far out in the Indian Ocean that it would wreck every liner afloat, or so close in to the Bight that far-off Western Australia looks as if it’s been stricken with polio. I know the outline; I know the names (learned painfully for homework) of several dozen capes, bays, promontories; and can trace in with a dotted line the hopeless journeys across it of all the great explorers, Sturt, Leichhardt, Burke and Wills. But what it is beyond that is a mystery. It is what begins with the darkness at our back door. Page 52

The library had its own people. You never saw them anywhere else in the city, except there, or on the buttoned-leather couches at the School of Arts: old men with watery red-rimmed eyes and no collar to their shirt, who settled somewhere as soon as the library opened at ten in the morning and stayed put till it was time to queue at the Salvation Army Refuge or the St. Vincent de Paul, about an hour before dusk. Page 59

“I’m going to shit this bitch of a country right out of my system,” he told me fiercely. “Twenty fucking years! How long will it take me, do you think, to shit out every last trace of it? At the end of every seven years you’re completely new — did you know that? New fingernails, new hair, new cells. There’ll be nothing left in me of bloody Australia. I’ll be transmuted. Page 90

I had broken through into my own consciousness; and Paris — Europe — was a different place. Page 109

In the summers I went to Europe, and got to know one or two towns as well almost as I knew Brisbane — better perhaps since the Brisbane I knew was already changing (my mother’s letters kept me informed of old places torn down and of new ones emerging, the Grand Central replaced by a shopping arcade, a whole block in front of the Town Hall ploughed up to make a parking station, the old markets cleared out of the city into a distant suburb, new bridges, new highways); the Brisbane I knew had its existence only in my memory, in the fine roots it had put down in my own emotions, so that a particular street corner would always be there for me in a meeting that had almost changed my life, or in the peculiar fact, half-sweet, half-sad, that it was from there that a certain tram had left, the scene of sentimental adolescent partings. It was the town I would always walk in, in my memory at least, with an assurance I could know nowhere else, finding my way by the smells — a winebar, the fruit barrow in a laneway, a hardware shop, the disinfectant they used in Coles. I could have made my way through it blindfold, as I often did in my sleep, amazed to discover that in my Brisbane the old markets hadn’t been removed at all, and the Grand Central, that extraordinary three-ring circus of my youth, was still in full swing. I could see my own reflections in its mirrors. And Johnno’s as well. It would always be there. Page 115

It is a sobering thing, at just thirty, to have outlived the landmarks of your youth. And to have them go, not in some violent cataclysm, an act of God, or under the fury of bombardment, but in the quiet way of our generation: by council ordinance and by-law; through shady land deals; in the name of order, and progress, and in contempt (or is it small-town embarrassment?) of all that is untidy and shabbily individual. Brisbane was on the way to becoming a minor metropolis. Page 132

Well, the seven years were up. Like a bad charm. And it was Johnno who was gone. Australia was still there, more loud-mouthed, prosperous, intractable than ever. Far from being destroyed, the Myth was booming. There were suggestions that it would soon be supporting thirty million souls. Australia was the biggest success-story of them all. Page 135

Read Within a Budding Grove

The Narrator’s parents invite M. de Norpois, a diplomat colleague of the Narrator’s father, to dinner. With Norpois’s intervention, the Narrator is finally allowed to go see the Berma perform in a play, but is disappointed by her acting. Afterwards, at dinner, he watches Norpois, who is extremely diplomatic and correct at all times, expound on society and art. The Narrator gives him a draft of his writing, but Norpois gently indicates it is not good. The Narrator continues to go to the Champs-Élysées and play with Gilberte. Her parents distrust him, so he writes to them in protest. He and Gilberte wrestle and he has an orgasm. Gilberte invites him to tea, and he becomes a regular at her house. He observes Mme. Swann’s inferior social status, Swann’s lowered standards and indifference towards his wife, and Gilberte’s affection for her father. The Narrator contemplates how he has attained his wish to know the Swanns, and savors their unique style. At one of their parties he meets and befriends Bergotte, who gives his impressions of society figures and artists. But the Narrator is still unable to start writing seriously. His friend Bloch takes him to a brothel, where there is a Jewish prostitute named Rachel. He showers Mme. Swann with flowers, being almost on better terms with her than with Gilberte. One day, he and Gilberte quarrel and he decides never to see her again. However, he continues to visit Mme. Swann, who has become a popular hostess, with her guests including Mme. Bontemps, who has a niece named Albertine. The Narrator hopes for a letter from Gilberte repairing their friendship, but gradually feels himself losing interest. He breaks down and plans to reconcile with her, but spies from afar someone resembling her walking with a boy and gives her up for good. He stops visiting her mother also, who is now a celebrated beauty admired by passersby, and years later he can recall the glamour she displayed then.

Two years later, the Narrator, his grandmother, and Françoise set out for the seaside town of Balbec. The Narrator is almost totally indifferent to Gilberte now. During the train ride, his grandmother, who only believes in proper books, lends him her favorite: the Letters of Mme. de Sévigné. At Balbec, the Narrator is disappointed with the church and uncomfortable in his unfamiliar hotel room, but his grandmother comforts him. He admires the seascape, and learns about the colorful staff and customers around the hotel: Aimé, the discreet headwaiter; the lift operator; M. de Stermaria and his beautiful young daughter; and M. de Cambremer and his wife, Legrandin’s sister. His grandmother encounters an old friend, the blue-blooded Mme. de Villeparisis, and they renew their friendship. The three of them go for rides in the country, openly discussing art and politics. The Narrator longs for the country girls he sees alongside the roads, and has a strange feeling—possibly memory, possibly something else—while admiring a row of three trees. Mme. de Villeparisis is joined by her glamorous great-nephew Robert de Saint-Loup, who is involved with an unsuitable woman. Despite initial awkwardness, the Narrator and his grandmother become good friends with him. Bloch, the childhood friend from Combray, turns up with his family, and acts in typically inappropriate fashion. Saint-Loup’s ultra-aristocratic and extremely rude uncle the Baron de Charlus arrives. The Narrator discovers Mme. de Villeparisis, her nephew M. de Charlus, and his nephew Saint-Loup are all of the Guermantes family. Charlus ignores the Narrator, but later visits him in his room and lends him a book. The next day, the Baron speaks shockingly informally to him, then demands the book back. The Narrator ponders Saint-Loup’s attitude towards his aristocratic roots, and his relationship with his mistress, a mere actress whose recital bombed horribly with his family. One day, the Narrator sees a “little band” of teenage girls strolling beside the sea, and becomes infatuated with them, along with an unseen hotel guest named Mlle Simonet. He joins Saint-Loup for dinner and reflects on how drunkenness affects his perceptions. Later they meet the painter Elstir, and the Narrator visits his studio. The Narrator marvels at Elstir’s method of renewing impressions of ordinary things, as well as his connections with the Verdurins (he is “M. Biche”) and Mme. Swann. He discovers the painter knows the teenage girls, particularly one dark-haired beauty who is Albertine Simonet. Elstir arranges an introduction, and the Narrator becomes friends with her, as well as her friends Andrée, Rosemonde, and Gisele. The group goes for picnics and tours the countryside, as well as playing games, while the Narrator reflects on the nature of love as he becomes attracted to Albertine. Despite her rejection, they become close, although he still feels attracted to the whole group. At summer’s end, the town closes up, and the Narrator is left with his image of first seeing the girls walking beside the sea.

Some talk about the way in which In Search of Lost Time has the same pace as conversation. One of the things that has come to the fore is the way in which the wandering prose leads to dallies of self-reflection.


Proust on writing as a reflection of labour, rather than personality

And then I asked myself whether originality did indeed prove that great writers were gods, ruling each one over a kingdom that was his alone, or whether all that was not rather make-believe, whether the differences between one man’s book and another’s were not the result of their respective labours rather than the expression of a radical and essential difference between two contrasted personalities.

Proust on the beauty of great writers.

So it is with all great writers, the beauty of their language is as incalculable as that of a woman whom we have never seen; it is creative, because it is applied to an external object of which, and not of their language or its beauty, they are thinking, to which they have not yet given expression.

Proust on the genius of the writer.

Similarly the men who produce works of genius are not those who live in the most delicate atmosphere, whose conversation is most brilliant or their culture broadest, but those who have had the power, ceasing in a moment to live only for themselves, to make use of their personality as of a mirror, in such a way that their life, however unimportant it may be socially, and even, in a sense, intellectually speaking, is reflected by it, genius consisting in the reflective power of the writer and not in the intrinsic quality of the scene reflected.

Proust on love of fellow creatures

So that—or such, at least, was my way of thinking then—we are always detached from our fellow-creatures; when a man loves one of them he feels that his love is not labelled with their two names, but may be born again in the future, may have been born already in the past for another and not for her. And in the time when he is not in love, if he makes up his mind philosophically as to what it is that is inconsistent in love, he will find that the love of which he can speak unmoved he did not, at the moment of speaking, feel, and therefore did not know, knowledge in these matters being intermittent and not outlasting the actual presence of the sentiment.

Proust on regret and desire

For, like desire, regret seeks not to be analysed but to be satisfied. When one begins to love, one spends one’s time, not in getting to know what one’s love really is, but in making it possible to meet next day. When one abandons love one seeks not to know one’s grief but to offer to her who is causing it that expression of it which seems to one the most moving.

Proust on unhappiness leading to morals

As soon as one is unhappy one becomes moral. Gilberte’s recent antipathy for me seemed to me a judgment delivered on me by life for my conduct that afternoon. Such judgments one imagines one can escape because one looks out for carriages when one is crossing the street, and avoids obvious dangers. But there are others that take effect within us. The accident comes from the side to which one has not been looking, from inside, from the heart.

Proust on memory

That is why the better part of our memory exists outside ourself, in a blatter of rain, in the smell of an unaired room or of the first crackling brushwood fire in a cold grate: wherever, in short, we happen upon what our mind, having no use for it, had rejected, the last treasure that the past has in store, the richest, that which when all our flow of tears seems to have dried at the source can make us weep again. Outside ourself, did I say; rather within ourself, but hidden from our eyes in an oblivion more or less prolonged. It is thanks to this oblivion alone that we can from time to time recover the creature that we were, range ourself face to face with past events as that creature had to face them, suffer afresh because we are no longer ourself but he, and because he loved what leaves us now indifferent. In the broad daylight of our ordinary memory the images of the past turn gradually pale and fade out of sight, nothing remains of them, we shall never find them again. Or rather we should never find them again had not a few words (such as this “Secretary to the Ministry of Posts”) been carefully locked away in oblivion, just as an author deposits in the National Library a copy of a book which might otherwise become unobtainable.

Proust on noticing and space

It is our noticing them that puts things in a room, our growing used to them that takes them away again and clears a space for us. Space there was none for me in my bedroom (mine in name only) at Balbec; it was full of things which did not know me, which flung back at me the distrustful look that I had cast at them, and, without taking any heed of my existence, shewed that I was interrupting the course of theirs.

Proust on pleasure being like photography.

Pleasure in this respect is like photography. What we take, in the presence of the beloved object, is merely a negative film; we develop it later, when we are at home, and have once again found at our disposal that inner dark-room, the entrance yo which is barred to us so long as we are with other people.

Proust on memory like a shop

Our memory is like a shop in the window of which is exposed now one, now another photograph of the same person. And as a rule the most recent exhibit remains for some time the only one to be seen.

Proust on modifying our surrounds over time

All our lives, we go on patiently modifying the surroundings in which we dwell; and gradually, as habit dispenses us from feeling them, we suppress the noxious elements of colour, shape and smell which were at the root of our discomfort.

Read The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (Czech: Kniha smíchu a zapomnění) is a novel by Milan Kundera, published in France in 1979. It is composed of seven separate narratives united by some common themes. The book considers the nature of forgetting as it occurs in history, politics and life in general. The stories also contain elements found in the genre of magic realism.

I felt there was something haunting about this book. As the stories come and go, they seem to linger, always somehow incomplete whether it be in their telling or the actual story itself.


We write books because our children aren’t interested in us. We address ourselves to an anonymous world because our wives plug their ears when we speak to them.


The irresistible proliferation of graphomania among politicians, taxi drivers, childbearers, lovers, murderers, thieves, prostitutes, officials, doctors, and patients shows me that everyone without exception bears a potential writer within him, so that the entire human species has good reason to go down into the streets and shout: “We are all writers!” For everyone is pained by the thought of disappearing, unheard and unseen, into an indifferent universe, and because of that everyone wants, while there is still time, to turn himself into a universe of words. One morning (and it will be soon), when everyone wakes up as a writer, the age of universal deafness and incomprehension will have arrived.


In one of his pensées, Pascal says that man lives between the abyss of the infinitely large and the abyss of the infinitely small. The voyage of variations leads into that other infinitude, into the infinite diversity of the interior world lying hidden in all things. Beethoven thus discovered in variations another area to be explored. His variations are a new “invitation to the voyage.”


Karel Klos represented music without memory, the music under which the bones of Beethoven and Ellington, the ashes of Palestrina and Schoenberg, are forever buried. The President of Forgetting and the Idiot of Music were two of a kind. They were doing the same work. “We will help you, you will help us.” Neither could manage without the other.


Arousal without climax is Daphnis. Climax without arousal is the salesgirl at the sporting goods rental shop.


Read In Search of Lost Time

In Search of Lost Time (French: À la recherche du temps perdu), first translated into English as Remembrance of Things Past, and sometimes referred to in French as La Recherche (The Search), is a novel in seven volumes by French author Marcel Proust. This early 20th-century work is his most prominent, known both for its length and its theme of involuntary memory. The most famous example of this is the “episode of the madeleine”, which occurs early in the first volume. The novel gained fame in English in translations by C. K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin as Remembrance of Things Past, but the title In Search of Lost Time, a literal rendering of the French, became ascendant after D. J. Enright adopted it for his revised translation published in 1992.

In Search of Lost Time follows the narrator’s recollections of childhood and experiences into adulthood in the late 19th-century and early 20th-century high-society France, while reflecting on the loss of time and lack of meaning in the world.[1] The novel began to take shape in 1909. Proust continued to work on it until his final illness in the autumn of 1922 forced him to break off. Proust established the structure early on, but even after volumes were initially finished, he continued to add new material and edited one volume after another for publication. The last three of the seven volumes contain oversights and fragmentary or unpolished passages, as they existed only in draft form at the death of the author; the publication of these parts was overseen by his brother Robert.

There were a number of things that converged with me deciding to read the first volume in Marcel Proust’s epic Remembrance of Things Past / In Search of Lost Time. Firstly, there was mention of Proust in the BBC In Our Time episode on Bergson and time. Secondly, Stanley Kim Robinson mentioned his love of Proust in an interview. Lastly, the anti-hero of Damian Cowell’s series Only the Shit You Love is named Marcell Proust and although I felt I understood the association also wondered what I was missing.

I am not sure if I really ‘read’ Swann’s Way? I did not give up after the first few pages. I think it helped listening to the text. For me, Swann’s Way was one of those texts that lingers long after.

Meandering through the relationship of Swann and Odette felt like watching a car crash that you know is going to happen long before the point of impact. Although he comes out of it suggesting that she was not his type, it still feels like a case of one of those stories we tell ourselves to get to sleep at night.


[S]he spoke to Swann once about a friend to whose house
she had been invited, and had found that everything in it was ‘of the period.’ Swann could not get her to tell him what ‘period’ it was.

It shewed me finally, the new arrangement planned by my unseen weaver, that, if we find ourselves hoping that the actions of a person who has hitherto caused us anxiety may prove not to have been sincere, they shed in their wake a light which our hopes are powerless to extinguish, a light to which, rather than to our hopes, we must put the question, what will be that person’s actions on the morrow.

It was to me like one of those zoological gardens in which one sees assembled together a variety of flora, and contrasted effects in landscape; where from a hill one passes to a grotto, a meadow, rocks, a stream, a trench, another hill, a marsh, but knows that they are there only to enable the hippopotamus,
zebra, crocodile, rabbit, bear and heron to disport themselves in a natural or a picturesque setting; this, the Bois, equally complex, uniting a multitude of little worlds, distinct and separate—placing a stage set with red trees, American oaks, like an experimental forest in Virginia, next to a fir-wood by the edge of the lake, or to a forest grove from which would suddenly emerge, in her lissom covering of furs, with the
large, appealing eyes of a dumb animal, a hastening walker—was the Garden of Woman; and like the myrtle-alley in the Aeneid, planted for their delight with trees of one kind only, the Allée des Acacias was thronged by the famous Beauties of the day. As, from a long way off, the sight of the jutting crag from which it dives into the pool thrills with joy the children who know that they are going to behold the seal, long before I reached the acacia-alley, their fragrance, scattered abroad,
would make me feel that I was approaching the incomparable presence of a vegetable personality, strong and tender; then, as I drew near, the sight of their topmost branches, their lightly tossing foliage, in its easy grace, its coquettish outline, its delicate fabric, over which hundreds of flowers were laid, like winged and throbbing colonies of precious insects;

[R]emembrance of a particular form is but regret for a particular moment


School of Life

Proust’s goal isn’t that we should necessarily make art or be someone who hangs out in museums. It’s to get us to look at the world, our world, with some of the same generosity as an artist, which would mean taking pleasure in simple things – like water, the sky or a shaft of light on a roughly plastered wall.

Reading group: Bogged down on Swann’s Way? (Sam Jordison)

Meanwhile, it isn’t just the prose style, the long sentences, the great piles of subordinate clauses, the Mississippi-wide meanderings, the slow-flowing course of the narrative that might cause problems. You could easily be forgiven for taking against the narrator himself. At first glance, he seems a tremendous egotist and snob. Who is he to imagine that every aspect of his life is so precious and important that he has to share it in such detail? Who is he to suggest that his family know so much about life well-lived? Who cares about his precious hawthorns? Why does he make so much of social niceties and conventions? Why does it matter to us who his relatives do and don’t snub? Why should we care why?

Mind you, ChrisIcarus has a warning:

“If there are Guardian readers who have not yet swum in the deep ocean of Proust’s full masterpiece then I offer this advice: read no more than one paragraph at a sitting and no more than three paragraphs in a day. This is the CRACK COCAINE of art and if you want to stay on the sane side of Dionysian madness imbue this nectar sparingly.”

How to read Proust – A guide to getting through Remembrance of Things Past (Matthew Walther)

Proust should be read slowly, 20 or so pages at a time. (When you are a thousand or so pages in and cannot help yourself from pressing on to learn what Brichot has to say about the death of Swann, you will have reached the stage at which it is probably acceptable to lie down with Proust.) Sooner or later readers will discover that the novel unfolds not slowly per se but at something that approximates the pace of life itself — or, better yet, that “real life” is blissfully Proustian.

William C. Carter

I always tell anyone who might be intimidated by the many pages to be read that, although In Search of Lost Time is rich and complex and demands an attentive reader, the novel is never difficult. In spite of its length and complexity, most readers find it readily accessible.

I think he helps us to see the world as it really is, not only its extraordinary beauty and diversity, but his observations make us aware of how we perceive and how we interact with others, showing us how often we are mistaken in our own assumptions and how easy it is to have a biased view of another person. And I think the psychology and motivation of Proust’s characters are as rewardingly complex as are those of Shakespeare’s characters. Just as the Bard describes Cleopatra, many of Proust’s characters are creatures of “infinite variety.” Speaking of Shakespeare, Shelby Foote, in an interview, placed Proust in the top tier of writers he most admired: “Proust has been the man that hung the moon for me. He’s with Shakespeare in my mind, in the sense of having such a various talent. Whenever you read Proust, for the rest of your life, he’s part of you, the way Shakespeare is part of you. I don’t want to exaggerate, but I truly feel that he is the great writer of the 20th century.”

Oliver Munday

The novel’s obsession with perception is part of why so many people find reading Proust to be profound: the philosophical interrogation of time, the discursive meditations on art, the musicality of its structure. Yet beneath these lofty ambitions is the beauty of his descriptions. Characters, emotions, and ideas are all rendered with such precision that the reader never suspects a hierarchy. Take this view of a balcony: “I saw it attain to that fixed, unalterable gold of fine days, on which the sharply cut shadows of the wrought iron of the balustrade were outlined in black like a capricious vegetation.” These visual encounters felt like intimate revelations.

Read The Storyteller

Having entertained the idea for years, and even offered a few questionable opportunities (“It’s a piece of cake! Just do 4 hours of interviews, find someone else to write it, put your face on the cover, and voila!”) I have decided to write these stories just as I have always done, in my own hand. The joy that I have felt from chronicling these tales is not unlike listening back to a song that I’ve recorded and can’t wait to share with the world, or reading a primitive journal entry from a stained notebook, or even hearing my voice bounce between the Kiss posters on my wall as a child.

I found The Storyteller an intriguing meditation on the life of a musician. As has been said about other pieces, such as What Drive’s Us, there is something about reading about someone who can fly half way around the world to attend a school dance in the middle of a tour. However, with all that set aside, it was an enthralling read. I quickly lost count of name drops, whether it be ACDC, Barack Obama, Elton John, Iggy Pop, Trent Reznor, Tom Petty, Joan Jett, Paul McCartney, Pantera etc… One thing is for sure, Dave Grohl is connected. The title storyteller is interesting in that like any good narrative it is as much about what has been left out as it is about what has been included. Although there is much reference to Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, it feels like there are a lot of tales that have been left out about that time. Maybe they do not fit with the vibe Grohl was going for. Also, with so many name drops, it is always notable when Grohl chooses not to mention somebodies name. For example, there is no mention of Louise Post. Maybe this is out of respect, maybe it does not matter, not sure. I also need to add, listening to Dave Grohl read the book I think made it better too.


“Define a lot of coffee . . . ,” I said, knowing that my caffeine consumption would probably make Juan Valdez pack up his donkey and run for the hills of Colombia. I was almost embarrassed to admit the amount of coffee I would drink in one day, for fear that he would 5150 me and send me off in a straitjacket to the nearest Caffeine Anonymous meeting. I had recently come to terms with this addiction, realizing that maybe five pots of coffee a day was slightly overdoing it, but I hadn’t accepted the dire consequences until now. Unfortunately, I’m THAT guy. Give me one, I want ten. There is a reason why I still to this day have never done cocaine, because deep down I know that if I did coke the same way I drink coffee, I’d be sucking dicks at the bus stop every morning for an eight ball.

I was driving Harper to school and she asked, “Dad, what’s the longest flight you’ve ever been on?” I smiled and said, “Well . . . remember that time I came home for one night to take you to your first daddy-daughter dance?” She nodded. “That was about twenty hours in the air,” I said. She looked at me like I was crazy. “Twenty hours??? You didn’t have to do that!!!”

We smiled at each other, and after a long pause, she turned to me and said, “Actually . . . yes you did.”

Violet was devastated by the news that her friends would not join her for the show. As we sat on the couch together and I watched the tears roll down her cherubic little face, the protective father in me kicked in. “Hey, what if you and I perform ‘Blackbird’ together? I’ll play guitar and you sing!” She looked up and wiped her face, and her expression instantly changed as she nodded excitedly with a relieved smile. I ran to fetch my guitar, sat down before her, and began to play the song. Without even a moment of rehearsal or lyric sheet to refer to, she came in on time, in tune, and we played it together perfectly, first try. It was beautiful. I would say that I was surprised, but I wasn’t. I knew that she could do it. But . . . could I? We high-fived and made a plan: we would rehearse every morning before school and every night before bed until the gig, ensuring that we’d be more than ready by the time we hit the stage.

Read The Plague

The Plague (French: La Peste) is a novel by Albert Camus. Published in 1947, it tells the story from the point of view of a narrator of a plague sweeping the French Algerian city of Oran. The narrator remains unknown until the start of the last chapter, chapter 5 of part 5. The novel presents a snapshot of life in Oran as seen through the author’s distinctive absurdist point of view.[1]

Camus used as source material the cholera epidemic that killed a large proportion of Oran’s population in 1849, but situated the novel in the 1940s.[2] Oran and its surroundings were struck by disease several times before Camus published his novel. According to an academic study, Oran was decimated by the bubonic plague in 1556 and 1678, but all later outbreaks (in 1921: 185 cases; 1931: 76 cases; and 1944: 95 cases) were very far from the scale of the epidemic described in the novel.[3]

The Plague is considered an existentialist classic despite Camus’ objection to the label.[4][5] The novel stresses the powerlessness of the individual characters to affect their destinies. The narrative tone is similar to Kafka’s, especially in The Trial, whose individual sentences potentially have multiple meanings; the material often pointedly resonating as stark allegory of phenomenal consciousness and the human condition.

I finally got around to reading (or listening to) Albert Camus’ The Plague. What stood out to me about Camus’ account was the way in which he captures the everyday. As Matthew Sharpe captures:

Camus became increasingly sceptical about glorious ideals of superhumanity, heroism or sainthood. It is the capacity of ordinary people to do extraordinary things that The Plague lauds.

Another interesting point was the idea that ‘the plague’ is as much about a disease as it is about politics and life itself. As Tarrou asserts, “each of us has the plague within him; no one, no one on earth is free from it.” This reminds me of Norman Swan’s discussion of COVID-19 being a political pandemic.

I am glad that I waited to read this as it was interesting to reflect and consider everything that has occurred.


“The plague.” “Ah!” Rieux exclaimed. “No, you haven’t understood that it means exactly that—the same thing over and over and over again.” (Page 151)

“To make things simpler, Rieux, let me begin by saying I had plague already, long before I came to this town and encountered it here. Which is tantamount to saying I’m like everybody else. Only there are some people who don’t know it, or feel at ease in that condition; others know and want to get out of it. Personally, I’ve always wanted to get out of it. (Page 226)

I know positively—yes, Rieux, I can say I know the world inside out, as you may see—that each of us has the plague within him; no one, no one on earth is free from it. And I know, too, that we must keep endless watch on ourselves lest in a careless moment we breathe in somebody’s face and fasten the infection on him. What’s natural is the microbe. All the rest—health, integrity, purity (if you like)—is a product of the human will, of a vigilance that must never falter. The good man, the man who infects hardly anyone, is the man who has the fewest lapses of attention. And it needs tremendous will-power, a never ending tension of the mind, to avoid such lapses. Yes, Rieux, it’s a wearying business, being plague-stricken. But it’s still more wearying to refuse to be it. That’s why everybody in the world today looks so tired; everyone is more or less sick of plague. But that is also why some of us, those who want to get the plague out of their systems, feel such desperate weariness, a weariness from which nothing remains to set us free except death. (Page 233)

“Oh, for no particular reason. Only—well, he never talked just for talking’s sake. I’d rather cottoned to him. But there you are! All those folks are saying: ‘It was plague. We’ve had the plague here.’ You’d almost think they expected to be given medals for it. But what does that mean—‘plague’? Just life, no more than that.” (Page 282)

He knew what those jubilant crowds did not know but could have learned from books: that the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good; that it can lie dormant for years and years in furniture and linen-chests; that it bides its time in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, and bookshelves; and that perhaps the day would come when, for the bane and the enlightening of men, it would rouse up its rats again and send them forth to die in a happy city. (Page 283)

Read Lolly Scramble

Lolly Scramble: A Memoir of Little Consequence, published in 2005, is collection of autobiographical essays by New Zealand-Australian comedian Tony Martin. A second volume, A Nest of Occasionals, appeared in 2009.

Tony Martin manages to make the mundane somehow magical in his often self-deprecating memoirs. My favourite story was his time in the advertising industry. “Are you asking or are you saying?” The book was all made better with Martin’s reading.

I always wondered about the association between Tony Martin and Damien Cowell, but they both have the skill to put a spotlight on the everyday and leave the world forever different. Personally, it had me thinking about my own past and how sometimes life is about perspective.

“Damian Cowell” in Episode 10: Keith Richards In A Time Machine Part 3 | Damian Cowell ()

Read The Metamorphosis

Metamorphosis (German: Die Verwandlung) is an allegorical novella written by Franz Kafka which was first published in 1915. One of Kafka’s best-known works, Metamorphosis tells the story of salesman Gregor Samsa, who wakes one morning to find himself inexplicably transformed into a huge insect (ungeheures Ungeziefer, lit. “monstrous vermin”) and subsequently struggles to adjust to this new condition. The novella has been widely discussed among literary critics, with differing interpretations being offered. In popular culture and adaptations of the novella, the insect is commonly depicted as a cockroach.

I found The Metamorphosis intriguing. For me, the story is less about waking an insect, as it is about coping with change.

With all the worry they had been having of late her cheeks had become pale, but, while they were talking, Mr. and Mrs. Samsa were struck, almost simultaneously, with the thought of how their daughter was blossoming into a well built and beautiful young lady.

It reminds me of Peter Carey’s The True History of the Kelly Gang, which could be interpreted as much about the way in which history is told as it is about Ned Kelly.

This sense of change reminded me of when my mother passed. I was so focused on her last days that I had overlooked how the world had continued to go on changing around me.

In getting the backyard organised for my daughter’s birthday this morning, it dawned on me that during the last month when the last thing on my list of things to do was cutting things back and nurturing the garden, that the garden didn’t care, it just kept on growing. Whether it be the passionfruit vine stretching out even further along the fence line or the lemon tree growing even taller, the garden had kept on going.
To me this is all a part of something bigger that I have come to realise. Whether it be illness, mourning or even extended holidays, the world around us does not stop.


No English translation disputes that Gregor wakes from troubled dreams to find himself transformed in his bed. But into what, precisely?

The adjective ungeheuren means “huge”, the noun Ungeziefer some form of “creepy-crawly” but also “vermin” – obviously more suggestive of rodents than insects, yet applicable to both, the shared characteristic being pestilent, repugnant qualities.

“Some kind of monstrous vermin” is how it was rendered by the story’s first English translator, AL Lloyd. “A gigantic insect” was the reading of Edwin and Willa Muir. “A monstrous cockroach” is how Michael Hofmann phrased it more recently.